On the schedule, it was just an ordinary American Eagle flight: a 93-minute hop from Charlotte, N.C. to Salisbury, Maryland.

But when flight 4297 landed at 8:38 p.m. Wednesday, it made aviation history.

The on-time arrival of the Bombardier Dash 8-300, operated by Piedmont Airlines for American Eagle, marked the last time one of the biggest U.S. carriers will fly a turboprop commercial plane.

This is a pretty big deal for anyone who's been flying for more than say, 20 years.

Personally, I spent a lot of time on little turboprops back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Dash-8s. Sure, I had a scary moment or two, but turboprops were also the only option at the time when it came to traveling between some small cities.

And of course there was a time, probably long before almost anyone reading this was flying, when the major airlines only flew planes with propellers.

Not anymore. United Airlines flew its last turboprop flight in May (a United Express route between Guam and Saipan that was flown by Cape Air); Delta apparently gave up their last such flight some time ago, and Southwest has only flown jets.

(Piedmont's will continue flying for American, using an updated fleet consisting of 50-seat Embraer 145 jets.)

Of course, there are still a number of smaller airlines flying small turboprops; it's only the big U.S. airlines that are closing the book with this week's flight. The smallest plane is probably the 9-seat Cessna flown by Cape Air.

Check out this video to see what that's like for passengers. And within the United States, Horizon Air, affiliated with Alaska Airlines, is still flying the aircraft's updated version of the Dash-8, the Bombardier Q400.

The Dash 8 was part of the "golden age of regional turboprops ... soldiers, lugging people to and from small towns all over the country, feeding the ever-growing hub-and-spoke networks of the big guys," wrote The Cranky Flier blog, which analyzed the milestone:

American was the [airline] that held out the longest. Why? Because American (and its predecessors via US Airways) serves a lot of small towns. ... The Dash 8 had the right mix of economics and aircraft size, but even that had to end eventually. The aircraft started reaching the end of their lives, and maintenance kept getting more expensive.

The last flight's captain and first officer, Capt. Ricky Snyder, who was with Piedmont for 40 years, and Capt. Malcom Ferrand, who was with the regional airline for 28 years, retired after it landed, according to the airline.

"All my memories are from the Dash and I know a lot of senior flight attendants are the same," flight attendant Nina Yli-Piipari told local television station WBOC. "To me it's like the end of an era. ... We were a Dash family and now we're not."

Published on: Jul 6, 2018